Royal Troon – the venue for this year’s Open Golf Championship – has dropped a heavy hint that it wants its 800 male members to vote in favour of admitting women following a recent intervention by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
A letter has been sent to the Ayrshire club’s male members “seeking views on the issue of the admission of women members” and there is still a chance a decision could be made before the event starts on 14 July.
It is important that the club, much like the wider game, reflects the modern society in which we exist.Martin Cheyne
But a vote on admitting women at Muirfield is now hanging in the balance after a group at the East Lothian club launched a “no” campaign.
The Scotsman understands the group’s decision to canvas fellow members via a letter has left officials – who have recommended membership to ladies is offered on the “same basis as men” – fearing a major setback when the result of a postal vote is declared tomorrow.
A source said: “A two-thirds majority is required and it is going to be very close.”
Ms Sturgeon last month urged Royal Troon to reflect on her view that there should be nowhere in Scotland that is “off limits” to women. Her remarks came amid speculation she would refuse to attend The Open.
Club captain Martin Cheyne said yesterday: “As we look forward to jointly hosting the Open Championship later this summer, the Committee of Royal Troon Golf Club continues with its process regarding the Club’s Future Membership Policy and is cognisant of the recent articles in the press and social media, the public discussion surrounding the club, and the statements made by senior politicians.
“We are acting to better understand the views of our members, which will in turn inform the decisions we take. We care very much for the reputation of Royal Troon Golf Club and it is important that the club, much like the wider game, reflects the modern society in which we exist.
“We have today written to all of our members to understand their views and feelings on the issue of the admission of women to the Club. We expect to have a clearer sight of those opinions in the weeks ahead and will make further statements in due course.”
In 2013, Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor Alex Salmond did not go to The Open when it was played at Muirfield and was hosted by another all-male club, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. An extensive membership review has been taking place at the club since that tournament.
It had been hoped that it would lead to the East Lothian club falling into line with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and Royal St George’s in Kent after they both admitted women members inside the past two years.
But the letter sent out by the 33-strong “no” group is believed to have had a bigger impact on a postal vote that closes today than the club’s board had anticipated.
The letter also states that the group are confident that Muirfield would not be dropped by the R&A from its rota for The Open after a “no” vote. The letter states: “It is recognised that it is a very sensitive matter and the club is in a difficult position, but associations like ours with a very long and venerable history have strengths which are derived from that history. Change must come slowly and for choice should be evolutionary. A traditional resistance to change is one of the foundations of our unique position in golf and our reputation.”